By Brian Lafferty
May 6, 2011 (San Diego) – The good news: Thor delivers the goods you’d expect from a Marvel comic book movie. The not-really-bad-but-could-be-better news: Thor delivers the goods you’d expect from a Marvel comic book movie.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is the arrogant heir to the throne of Asgard but his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) strips him of most of his powers and exiles him to Earth as punishment. Soon after, Odin becomes indisposed, falling into a deep sleep and Thor’s jealous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) takes over. As Loki imposes his tyrannical rule over Asgard, a now-mortal Thor joins forces with scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) to help him regain his powers and stop his brother.
Thor follows the traditional Marvel comic book movie origin story formula. First established by X-Men eleven years ago, it goes as follows: solid special effects, a good – but not great - script, humor, and loads of action.
This isn’t a complaint, really. I find it hard to gripe about these things if they’re adeptly executed, as they are in Thor.
Yet, as good as the movie is, it feels like a set-up for much bigger things. Granted, it’s a good set-up and I left the theater feeling happy. At the same time, I had the same reaction to Thor as I did to X-Men, Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man: It’s a good movie, but there’s a feeling the best is yet to come.
The one thing that does separate Thor from most comic book movies is a certain combo of literary and cinematic qualities. Watching it is like the cinematic equivalent of reading a book (or in this case, a comic book). Just like a book, it includes not just the basic story elements and eventual mano a mano, but lots of little things. These little things add up to a movie that the word “mythological” can truly apply to.
The production designer, Bo Welch, once again demonstrates his affinity for lavish, colorful, and ultra-stylish sets. Like Beetle Juice, Edward Scissorhands, and Batman Returns, looking at Asgard made me feel as if I was in a whole different world (lousy retrofit 3D notwithstanding). The bland, dry, sterile desert town in New Mexico reinforces this feeling.
Ever since the advent of George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic, special effects seem to have become less special over the years. Watching Thor made me reject that notion. Unlike most effects-oriented movies that take CGI for granted, the special effects in Thor have an attention to detail. They slightly overpower the movie but the strong screenplay keeps them in check.
When you do see it do not, under any circumstances, see it in 3D. As I pulled into the parking lot I noticed the marquee prominently announcing Thor will be in 3D. When the guy from the marketing firm handed me the glasses as I entered the theater, my heart sank.
A few months ago I renounced everything positive I’ve ever said about 3D. There isn’t enough room in this review for me to go into it. 3D will be around for the time being, so I’ll have to put up with it. In the meantime, I have some unsolicited advice for studios: If you’re going to release a movie in 3D, either shoot it that way or don’t do 3D at all. Retrofit 3D is ugly, distracting, murky, and never works.
If you’re one of those people who bolt for the exit when the end credits roll, you’ll want to make an exception with this movie. Stick to the end for the best Marvel post-credits scene.
Thor is currently playing in local theaters.
A Paramount Pictures release. Director: Kenneth Branagh. Writers: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, and Don Payne (screenplay). J. Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich (story) based on the comic by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby. Cinematographer: Haris Zambarloukos. Music: Patrick Doyle. Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, and Stellan Skarsgård. Rated PG-13.